20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (10/25/12) – Nostalgiathon

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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Movie Two Hundred Forty

A sailor, a professor, and his assistant climb aboard the Nautilus for adventure as they travel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

A mysterious sea monster is attacking ships in the Pacific Ocean and is halting sea trade. Professor Pierre Arronax (Paul Lukas) and his assistant, Conseil (Peter Lorre) are commissioned by the U.S. government to travel and look for evidence of the monster. After having no luck on the sea, the ship is attacked by the monster and the professor and Conseil are thrown overboard along with cocky crewmember Ned Land (Kirk Douglas). After being adrift in the ocean, the men arrive upon a strange metal submersible and realizing that it is the monster they have been looking for climb aboard looking for answers. They look outside a large porthole window and see the crew of the vessel diving in large suits. The crew comes back aboard the Nautilus and their captain, Nemo (James Mason), takes the three men as captives. As Nemo reveals his intentions, the crew of the Nautilus travel the treacherous seas as Ned plots his escape.

Since this is the kickoff for Nostalgiathon, I will start by explaining why 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is my perfect choice. As a kid, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was one of my favorite movies but also the movie I found the most terrifying thing ever. The giant squid that attacks the Nautilus near the end of the film made young Andy have nightmares for weeks and still effects me today. Also, the Shedd Aquarium here in Chicago had a lifesize model of a giant squid on the ceiling in one of their exhibits that would make me cry every time we went there. But even though I was terrified, I was also incredibly intrigued by the creature.

To young me, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea WAS the giant squid attacking; the rest of the movie was filler for that scene. As an adult, the rest of the film is actually incredibly smart and mature considering this is a Disney film. Ned Land acts as most the film’s comic relief since he sings songs and acts crazy, and there is also a seal that seems tossed onscreen to appease kids, but the actual plot and Nemo’s motivations are quite adult. Even though I had watched this film many times as a kid, other than a few spotty things here and there, the only thing that was still burned in my brain was the giant squid attack and I’ll be honest…I still got chills from that scene as a 30 year old. Though no nightmares this time around, I’ve matured!

As mentioned, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a Disney film, the first sci-fi film from the studio. When Jules Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, submarines did not exist, which blows my mind. This was science fiction that turned non-fiction. The style of the film is also largely credited with popularity for the steampunk movement since the design of Nautilus is incredibly unique, even today.

As a kid, Kirk Douglas’ over the top sailor, Ned Land, always made me chuckle and he was the only character I really remember anything about. Now, Mason’s and Lorre’s performances stick out just as much, though they are a little more subtle. Mason as Nemo has such a dark hidden rage and Lorre is just a loveable assistant but gives a great performance.

Since I was lucky enough to see 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on the big screen this time, the giant squid was still huge and scary and amazing. It is still the highlight of the film for me, but now I am able to fully understand what is happening in the film. I think it has aged quite well both as a film and as a piece of nostalgia

I give it 4 (what else?) giant squid attacks out of 5.

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Ace in the Hole (4/20/12)

Ace in the HoleMovie Ninety

Ace in the Hole is a unique noir from the legendary Billy Wilder starring  Kirk Douglas that takes no holds barred against the media’s mentality of getting a scoop.

In the film, Chuck Tatum (Douglas) travels from New York to New Mexico as his career is faltering. He gets the story of a lifetime one day when he learns of a man trapped in a cave collapse. Tatum manipulates the story, which gains huge nationwide interest, and controls the media circus for profit until Tatum’s luck runs out.

I will admit that it took me quite a long time to warm up to Ace in the Hole, which disappointed me. I’m a huge fan of Wilder’s work, having already reviewed Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch this year, I am also a fan of his darker films. It’s not to say Ace in the Hole is a bad film, it’s not at all but it is perhaps too slow to gain momentum. I also found Kirk Douglas to simply be wrong for the role of Chuck Tatum, he simply isn’t slimy enough.

Regardless of my initial hesitations with Ace in the Hole, the second half of the film had a hold on me. We can guess that things are not going to end well for Tatum, but watching the events unfold is much like a train wreck. Ace in the Hole is certainly something I could watch again at some point, but it is not at the top of any of my ‘favorites’ lists.

I give it 4 mean looking Kirk Douglas’ out of 5.

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